What are Developers?

Source:  WoodenWalls

Mr. Nelson is a jack of all trades tester.  A salty dog, I guess. He has been working off and on for the company since 1805.  His first project was code named “Trafalgar”.  It was so successful that Mr. Nelson was promoted to the rank of grade 12 in the company, probably one of the youngest ever to reach such a high position at that time.  After the promotion, some people began calling him the Admiral or Lord out of deference.  For those who knew him beforehand though, they simply called him Horatio.  For this story, we will call him the Admiral.   One day in the test lab, the Admiral saw a junior tester curled up in a fetal position under a test bench.  The tester was rocking back and forth on the floor, or as the Admiral would say, “yawing to and fro about the deck”.  The tester was in tears.

[ADMIRAL]:  What’s wrong, Testmate?

[TESTER]:   The developers always treat me like a bilge rat.

The Admiral starts to laugh.

[ADMIRAL]:  Well son, that’s because you are bilge rat—you’re a bloody contract worker.

[TESTER]:    No Sir, I mean that they think that my work as a tester is beneath them or something.

[ADMIRAL]:  Hmmm.  I see.

[TESTER]:    I try to do my best.  I really do, Sir, but every time I find a bug they make me feel like I don’t know what I am talking about. The Admiral thinks for a moment then grabs the tester by his thong.

[ADMIRAL]:  Brace up, Lad.  For years, I had to put up with those scallywags too.  I was treated like some pegboy tied to the bulkhead in the goat locker.  Whenever those scurvy developers needed a scapegoat, they dropped anchor on me, if you get my meaning.  Many a time I got the dreaded cat o’ nine tails administered to me even when I didn’t ask for it.

[TESTER]:  What did you do, Sir?

[ADMIRAL]:  I decided to go on the account.

[TESTER]:    What do you mean, Sir?

[ADMIRAL]:  Let me ask you a question, Testmate.

[TESTER]:    Sure.

[ADMIRAL]:  What are developers?

[TESTER]:    People who write code, Sir?

[ADMIRAL]:  No, they are swabees.

[TESTER]:  Swabees?

[ADMIRAL]:  Janitors!  Every time we find bugs in their code, we give them a swab and tell them to go clean up their filthy mess.

[TESTER]:  That’s funny, Sir.

[ADMIRAL]:  It is.  And do you know what really chaffs their sterns?

[TESTER]:    No, Sir?

[ADMIRAL]:  To have a person with lesser schooling, such as yourself, point out these untidy affairs.  It’s nothing personal.  It’s just the way that it is.  It’s what keeps us underway as testers in the deep, stinky sea of software bilge.

[TESTER]:  Thank you, Sir.

[ADMIRAL]:  No problem…and one other thing, Testmate.

[TESTER]:  What’s that, Sir?

[ADMIRAL]:  If a developer still gives you flack, then put a little saltpeter in his coffee mug for good measure.

[TESTER]:  Spoken like a true sailor, Sir.

[ADMIRAL]:  Aaargh!

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Good Things to Say About Managers

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Test Tools…Trust and Verify

Credibility is the only thing you got as a tester.  When you lose it, then you might as well hang up your test hat.  Credibility is the only test tool that you have in your arsenal that really matters. You can use it as your QA weapon when you demand that a bug needs to get fixed in a product before it reaches customers.  Managers and developers will listen to you if you have credibility.  They might even take your advice.  No matter what happens though, don’t lose your credibility as a tester because, if you do lose it, then everything you try to achieve afterwards is under suspicion.  Some evil developers will use this against you in order to make themselves look better by discrediting any bug that file.  You really have no defense against this sort of behavior.

Credibility starts with the trustworthiness of your test tools.  If the test tool is flawed, like generating erroneous results, then you have a serious problem if not caught immediately.  It’s embarrassing to have a developer tell you that they found a bug in your test code.  Even if you didn’t write the test tool yourself, you are still guilty by association or as an accessory to the crime.

I am writing this because this very thing happened to me not too long ago, and not just once, but four times with different tools in a matter of days.  In all cases, it wasn’t my fault since I didn’t build the tools.  It didn’t matter though because I used the defective tools and disseminated the results with my signature on them.  For 12 years, I have prided myself on my credibility and I still do.  The quality assurance process for test tool development or lack thereof is what caused my grief recently.

This is why I stress the importance of building and leveraging tools that you can reliably trust.  Never trust code that is not peer reviewed and fully tested.  The tools I used were put into production before I started on the project.  When the developers told me about the bug in the test tool, I felt terrible.  I felt like I was doing a belly-flop naked in a pool of rusty razor blades—paraphrasing One More Minute, by Weird Al Yankovic.

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